Southern Lebanon: Recruitment Ground for Hezbollah Fighters

Smoke billows from the site of an Israeli airstrike on the outskirts of the southern Lebanese village of Alma al-Shaab near the border on May 22, 2024. (AFP)
Smoke billows from the site of an Israeli airstrike on the outskirts of the southern Lebanese village of Alma al-Shaab near the border on May 22, 2024. (AFP)
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Southern Lebanon: Recruitment Ground for Hezbollah Fighters

Smoke billows from the site of an Israeli airstrike on the outskirts of the southern Lebanese village of Alma al-Shaab near the border on May 22, 2024. (AFP)
Smoke billows from the site of an Israeli airstrike on the outskirts of the southern Lebanese village of Alma al-Shaab near the border on May 22, 2024. (AFP)

Southern Lebanon, a Hezbollah stronghold, has long been where the Iran-backed Shiite party recruits new members.

Since the eruption of the war on Gaza in October and Hezbollah joining the fight against Israel, the party has lost 308 members: 50 from the eastern Bekaa region and rest from the South.

The figure reflects the extent to which the residents of the South are involved in this war and have been involved in all wars waged by Hezbollah against Israel from the South.

Israel occupied southern Lebanon for years until 2000 so the residents of the area are more involved in the conflict than other people, especially Shiites who live in other regions but who are also supporters of Hezbollah and its ally the Shiite Amal movement.

The movement has lost 18 members in the war so far.

A study by Information International showed that since the eruption of the conflict in the South and until May 22, the 305 Hezbollah members killed in the fighting hail from 142 cities and villages. The majority, 12, hail from Kfarkila, nine from each of Aita al-Shaab and Markaba, and eight from each of Aitaroun, Blida and al-Tayba. All of these areas are in the South.

Fifty-two percent of the dead are aged between 20 and 35.

Political analyst and Hezbollah critic Ali al-Amine, who also hails from the South, said the majority of Hezbollah fighters who have been killed in the fighting are from the region.

This is primarily because the majority of Shiites in Lebanon are from the South where Hezbollah has heavy military, security and social presence, he told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Moreover, the nature of the war does not demand the participation of a large number of fighters. The party is launching rockets, while Israel is retaliating with targeted assassinations and strikes.

So, Hezbollah had no need to call up fighters or recruit new ones, in contrast to the war in Syria where it deployed its members more heavily on the ground, added al-Amine.

On how much the residents of the South will be able to withstand the human and material losses of the war, he explained that Hezbollah is the ruling security, political and economic authority in the South. The locals have no other side, except for the party, to turn to that can compensate them for these losses.

He revealed that relatives of any victim, whether killed or injured, will receive direct compensation of $25,000, a permanent salary, health insurance and other benefits from the party.

No one is objecting to this because the relatives would not only have lost their loved ones, but also stand to lose the financial assistance from Hezbollah, he went on to say.

Furthermore, al-Amine noted that beyond the relatives of the victims, “Lebanese society is not really concerned with Hezbollah’s fight. The Shiite general public also doesn’t believe that this war represents them.”

“They see it as limited to the job Hezbollah has always told them it is carrying out and that is preventing a war and protecting towns from Israeli aggression. However, the opposite is actually happening. Villages have been destroyed and nothing has been protected. Hezbollah became embroiled in a war without taking into account the opinions of the people and their interests,” he stressed.



Netanyahu Dissolved His War Cabinet. How Will That Affect Ceasefire Efforts?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press conference at the Sheba Tel-HaShomer Medical Center, in Ramat Gan on June 8, 2024 amid the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian territory between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press conference at the Sheba Tel-HaShomer Medical Center, in Ramat Gan on June 8, 2024 amid the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian territory between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)
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Netanyahu Dissolved His War Cabinet. How Will That Affect Ceasefire Efforts?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press conference at the Sheba Tel-HaShomer Medical Center, in Ramat Gan on June 8, 2024 amid the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian territory between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press conference at the Sheba Tel-HaShomer Medical Center, in Ramat Gan on June 8, 2024 amid the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian territory between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu disbanded his war cabinet Monday, a move that consolidates his influence over the Israel-Hamas war and likely diminishes the odds of a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip anytime soon.

Netanyahu announced the step days after his chief political rival, Benny Gantz, withdrew from the three-member war cabinet. Gantz, a retired general and member of parliament, was widely seen as a more moderate voice.

Major war policies will now be solely approved by Netanyahu's security cabinet — a larger body that is dominated by hard-liners who oppose the US-backed ceasefire proposal and want to press ahead with the war.

Netanyahu is expected to consult on some decisions with close allies in ad-hoc meetings, said an Israeli official who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.

These closed-door meetings could blunt some of the influence of the hard-liners. But Netanyahu himself has shown little enthusiasm for the ceasefire plan and his reliance on the full security cabinet could give him cover to prolong a decision.

Here’s key background about the war cabinet, and what disbanding it means for ceasefire prospects:

Why did Gantz join and then quit the war cabinet? The war cabinet was formed after the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel when Gantz, an opposition party leader, joined with Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant in a show of unity.

At the time, Gantz demanded that a small decision-making body steer the war in a bid to sideline far-right members of Netanyahu’s government.

But Gantz left the cabinet earlier this month after months of mounting tensions over Israel’s strategy in Gaza.

He said he was fed up with a lack of progress bringing home the dozens of Israeli hostages held by Hamas. He accused Netanyahu of drawing out the war to avoid new elections and a corruption trial. He called on Netanyahu to endorse a plan that — among other points — would rescue the captives and end Hamas rule in Gaza.

When Netanyahu did not express support for the plan, Gantz announced his departure. He said that “fateful strategic decisions” in the cabinet were being “met with hesitancy and procrastination due to political considerations.”

How will Israel's wartime policies likely be changed? The disbanding of the war cabinet only further distances Netanyahu from centrist politicians more open to a ceasefire deal with Hamas.

Months of ceasefire talks have failed to find common ground between Hamas and Israeli leaders. Both Israel and Hamas have been reluctant to fully endorse a US-backed plan that would return hostages, clear the way for an end to the war, and commence a rebuilding effort of the decimated territory.

Netanyahu will now rely on the members of his security cabinet, some of whom oppose ceasefire deals and have voiced support for reoccupying Gaza.

After Gantz's departure, Israel's ultranationalist national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, demanded inclusion in a renewed war cabinet. Monday's move could help keep Ben-Gvir at a distance, but it cannot sideline him altogether.

The move also gives Netanyahu leeway to draw out the war to stay in power. Netanyahu's critics accuse him of delaying because an end to the war would mean an investigation into the government's failures on Oct. 7 and raise the likelihood of new elections when the prime minister's popularity is low.

“It means that he will make all the decisions himself, or with people that he trusts who don’t challenge him,” said Gideon Rahat, chairman of the political science department at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. “And his interest is in having a slow-attrition war.”